" Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace -- but there is no peace..."

Peter Cresswell's picture
Submitted by Peter Cresswell on Thu, 2006-08-31 01:34

"Give me liberty, or give me death!" That impassioned speech by Patrick Henry still rings down the years from a man who would rather die on his feet than live on his his knees. It is among the top speeches from all history in defence of taking action in defence of one's liberty.

Perhaps more than any other, it was this speech that swung support behind opposing British tyranny and firmly behind the cause of individual liberty, and within a month the American War of Independence had begin -- and we know now how that war ended. Here is how the speech ends, when victory against what was then the world's greatest military force was still far from certain:

There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free--if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained--we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength but irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace--but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Lessons there for today, no?

Anyway, 'Learn Out Loud' now has this speech free for download on its website to listen to, learn from and enjoy. (And no, Virginia, this isn't actually Patrick Henry reciting the speech ... )

Just nine minutes long, it comes with my highest recommendation.

LINK: Patrick Henry's 'Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death' speech - Learn Out Loud
'Give me Liberty or Give Me Death' - transcript of the speech at Membrane.Com

RELATED: History, Politics-US

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Marcus, are you having your period?

Marcus's picture

Well, my historical expertise lies more in the English civil war. But I guess you could say so Eye

Marcus, are you having your

Ross Elliot's picture

Marcus, are you having your period?

The abstraction is that with no United States via a revolution, then North America would have become an imperial dominion or dominions, just as Canada did. Just as Australia did. Just as my New Zealand did. And a dominion is what Canada was and what the US has most certainly never been.

Well then, I'm glad we won

Melissa Lepley's picture

Well then, I'm glad we won independence...I'd hate to be part of Canada!

As Homer says "Canada? Why should we leave America to visit America Junior?"

Of course...if there were no America...Canada wouldn't have anyone to half-assedly emulate. What would it be then?

Sticking out tongue



Marcus's picture

“Down with those rotten pommy bastards!”

Given that "pommy" is an expression to describe a recent immigrant from the UK, most of them must have been self-hating then. Perhaps in your imagination they were Australian? Thomas "Bruce" Jefferson, perhaps? Smiling


Marcus's picture

"No revolution=continued British rule=continued British & French domination of North America resulting in a future "super-Canada" extending further south than present."

Nonsense, after the British kicked Napoleon's ass, they would have either taken it as booty or bought it from them on the cheap as the US Government did. How do you think the British had already gained control of French NA territory?

For your information, the British did not share power in Canada with the French Government, merely granted rights of autonomy to the French speaking part of the country after they took them over.

So true

Peter Cresswell's picture

... that I have nothing to add.

Cheers, Peter Cresswell

**Setting Brushfires In People's Minds**

**Integrating Architecture With Your Site**

Great speech - pity about the KASSless delivery

Jameson's picture

Still, thanks for the link, Peter. I’d suggest this speech is best read rather than heard here, so the mind can fill in Patrick’s passionate words and thumping fist booming around the hall, the hear-hears from the supporters, the nervous coughs from the appeasers, and finally the rousing “Harrah!” as they picked up their flintlocks and stormed off to Lexington, crying “Down with those rotten pommy bastards!”

At least, that’s how I imagined it.

Well... No

Ross Elliot's picture


No revolution=continued British rule=continued British & French domination of North America resulting in a future "super-Canada" extending further south than present.

A few twists and turns aside, that is Smiling


Melissa Lepley's picture

Why Canadian?

"In fact, if taxes were the

Ross Elliot's picture

"In fact, if taxes were the only problem, I'd probably be British!"

No, you'd be Canadian Sad

Marcus aka Benedict Arnold

Ross Elliot's picture


And who said the Founding fathers couldn't use some well-laced rhetoric when they chose?

God? Schmod! The Founders, certainly all that I've studied, weren't the bible bashers of modern times, they were relatively enlightened deists. Hell, I occasionally praise the Lord, but it's purely metaphorical.

DOI, para. 1: "...to which the laws of Nature and of Nature's God..."

Not TJ's God, but "Nature's God" Cool


Melissa Lepley's picture

"...equivalent to Attila and his invading Huns?"

Not Huns, Hessians! German mercenaries hired by the british. Laughing out loud

I will agree with you, that the colonies should have been willing to pay for their own defense. If the taxes were the only complaint they had, I too would be rooting for the British. In fact, if taxes were the only problem, I'd probably be British! Nobody in their right mind would fight an entire war over taxes, just to set up their own government to tax the hell out of them. Oh...wait.

I apologize, I don't know anything about Hong Kong, so I don't know what I would think about it if I did.



Melissa Lepley's picture

The taxation without representation was just the last straw. People like it, and repeat it, because it sort of rhymes. You know, it's easy to remember. Sticking out tongue

The British weren't some evil empire, they just weren't good rulers.

I think the problem wasn't the taxes, per se, but the fact that "mother" England treated the colonies like children. People living in England had certain rights (one of which was representation in parlaiment) but people who lived in the colonies did not. England saw the colonies as existing solely to provide them with raw materials and goods, while the colonists saw themselves as an extension of England, who should have the same rights and privilages as englishmen.

The colonists at the time didn't see the English people as evil, or terrible, there were way too many ties (business, political, familial) between the two for that. In fact, many of the English supported the colonies' bid for independence. The colonists simply wanted to rule themselves.

The whole "Taxation without representation" thing hit the average colonist (who might not care about parlaimental procedures or constitutional rights) below the belt. In the pocket-book, specifically.

I find an interesting parallel between the war of independence and the civil war. Before the civil war, the states themselves had much more power and self-legislation. The federal government existed to protect against foreign aggressors and make treaties with other countries. It was, more than anything else, the federal government's encroaching on states' rights that made the south secede.

While the British were at war with the French until 1763, the colonies were largely left to their own devices. They developed their own de facto governing bodies, their own courts, and their own militia for defense. After England beat the French, the king and the prime minister George Grenville decided to buckle down on the colonies, and took away much of their autonomy.

This, to say the least, pissed them off. Laughing out loud


Taxation without representation = Tyranny

Marcus's picture

Why does everyone repeat that to me, whenever I raise this point?

I haven't heard anyone claim that the people of Hong Kong lived under tyranny prior to the British leaving - but that would need to be your conclusion.

Don't get me wrong, the independence of the US and the framing and implementation of the US constitution was one of the greatest and most significant developments in human history.

But why do we have to over-egg the pudding and pretend that the British were some masssive evil force - equivalent to Attila and his invading Huns?


Peter Cresswell's picture

I think you need to get your head out of your lab and into some history books, boy.

Cheers, Peter Cresswell

**Setting Brushfires In People's Minds**

**Integrating Architecture With Your Site**

Oh come on,

Melissa Lepley's picture

You can't get your panties in a twist over the god references.

I mean, in Henry's day, it wasn't too far in the past that they were burning people alive for witchcraft. Is it so ridiculous that an impassioned orator would appeal to a higher power for help? I mean, almost everyone in that day believed in god, even if it was just in a Deist kind of way. He certainly wasn't waiting for god to fix things, he was endorsing bloody revolution. It's just verbal filler.

As for the "British guard shall be stationed in every house" part...did you notice, the third amendment to the U.S. Constitution says "No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law." Obviously, this must have been an actual problem, not just rhetorical nitpicking.

And there were more reasons than just taxes to seek independence from England. Taxes without representation (which was guaranteed them under the British constitution) was one reason, and a good one, I might add. Inept leadership, laws that gave England the economic upper hand at the expense of the colonies, and absentee governance were a few others.

Of course, I imagine the founding fathers would be aghast and ashamed of the current condition of American liberty, but luckily, unlike today's complacent masses, the colonists were willing to fight for their freedom.


God? What God?

Marcus's picture

"Opposing British tyranny."
What tyranny? Why does he think that he was free to speak his mind, hold meetings, be defended against invading Foreign armies by British soldiers at the cost of the British taxpayer? What little tax is imposed upon him for defence, he easily gets away with not paying. Some tyranny!

"An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!"

God? What God?

"Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house?"

A load of bull! The British couldn't afford it! Even if they could of, they wouldn't have done it.

"Forbid it, Almighty God!"

Again an appeal to mysticism.

"Give me liberty or give me death!"

Finally, something to cheer for Smiling

You bet your ass,

Ross Elliot's picture

You bet your ass, Peter!

Henry is so well known for his liberty or death quote that many people don't bother to go any further. The speech it came from always gets me emotionally hard. Memorise it today!

And don't just read the Declaration of Independence to get the measure of Jefferson. Read his autobiography and decades-long correspondence with John Adams.

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